Outdoor Adventures Uncategorized

Hornby Single-Track

Colin Wiseman - Hornby 02

On Hornby Island, you’ll want to ride your bicycle, you’ll want to ride your bike

At the top of Mt Geoffrey on Hornby Island, BC, after 40 minutes of
spinning uphill on a pair of old fire roads, you reach the edge of a
100-metre cliff.

Through  a small opening in the skinny second-growth fir trees, Denman
Island is visible across the deep blue of the Straight of Georgia, a
patchwork of old cedars and arbutus, a lighthouse perched on a rock outcrop
on its southern tip.

The ancient face of Vancouver Island’s Mt Arrowsmith and the pyramid of
Mt Albert Edward flank either end of the horizon while the peninsula of Comox
wraps around Denman’s northern tip, embracing sandy, tree-speckled Tree
Island.

The thermals on the bluff provide a place for bald eagles and turkey vultures
to play, drifting on the warming afternoon air and preparing for an evening
hunt. Watching them swoop and play brings you back to the reason you pedalled
up here: the well-worn network of rolling single track that awaits you on the
way down.

Hornby Island is about an hour from Buckley Bay via a $40 ferry boat ride
(passengers extra), home to a small but strong mountain-biking community that
has been building and maintaining an extensive network of trails for the past
20 years. The Island sports a friendly mix of tourists, artists,
intellectuals and summer residents from nearby cities such as Vancouver. The
biking trails are as eclectic as the population.

While there are wide, family friendly fire roads on the lower mountain that
barely work up a sweat, you can also find a collection of North Shore style
stunts with ladder bridges, log rides, and even a few rock drops for the more
adventurous mountain biker. However, it is the single track that really
shines on Hornby. For instance, No Horses, described as “Hornby
Island’s flagship trail,” is a smooth, flowing ride with high
berms adorned with mossy stumps, ferns and lichen-covered maples. With the
right mixture of speed and scenery, No Horses gives the rider a nice blend of
natural beauty and fast cornering that can keep both the nature enthusiast
and adrenaline junky smiling through its dozens of turns.

Other notable trails include local favourites such as Spasm Chasm, an old
stream bed complete with big flat pieces of granite and pebbled, muddy
sections that are apt to suck you right off your bike if you’re not
paying attention. For those more inclined to chuck themselves through the
air, there’s Yer Mom, which offers a variety of ladder rides and drops
in the one to four-metre range. To finish things off it has a five-metre road
gap. With a mix of trails like this, you are just as likely to see a family
of four pedalling rental bikes through the ferns on the lower mountain as a
group of body-armoured 17-year-olds on eight-inch travel, dual suspension
freeride machines.

Regardless, there are plenty of trails to go around. A trail map of Hornby
Island, available at the one and only local bike shop (aptly named The Bike
Shop, which also rents good cross-country bikes for $15 for the first hour
and $5 per hour every hour thereafter), sports 26 marked trails and over 80
kilometres of riding. Consult the map, which is labelled with easy, medium
and hard trails, or ask one of the friendly staff members on hand where to
ride and they will tell you what is in good shape and what might best suit
your riding style and ability.

Then again, if you are the more adventurous type who doesn’t like to
follow a marked path, simply start at the fire hall and ride Northwind and
Cold Deck to the top of Mt Geoffrey and take in the view before pointing your
bike downhill; all trails eventually reach one of the two main roads and your
starting point will never be more than an hour’s ride away.

For those who like to use a bike more as a means of transportation, Hornby
also offers many interesting sights accessible by newly cut gravel and dirt
trails that span most of the island, running adjacent to Central Road. Do a
pottery and art tour to any of the dozens of personal studios that dot the
island’s roads, or ride your bike out to Helliwell Park to walk amongst
the bluffs and abundant sea life.

Alternatively, take the lower bluff trail from the ferry landing to
Ford’s Cove Marina and back up to idyllic Tribune Bay Provincial Park
for some lounging on the beach and a ride through the grassy meadows before
visiting Joe King Ball Park or the Cardboard House Bakery and Pizza Galore
for some live music and a meal. Finish by riding back to the Ringside Market,
the location of the Bike Shop, which displays a sampling of Hornby’s
art work and local characters alongside several options for food.

With an array of trails and cultural offerings and in order to explore all
that Hornby has to offer, a stay of at least one night in one of two private
campsites or the numerous bed and breakfasts and small resorts is a good
idea. Regardless of whom you bring, Hornby Island is sure to please anyone
inclined to putting their seat in a saddle and pedalling to their next
destination. V

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